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- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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District Development Councils, 1979

Presidential Warrant 
Report of Presidential Commission - Chapter 1


Presidential Warrant, 23rd August, 1979
appointing Commission to report on District Development Councils

Greetings:

Whereas it appears to me to be necessary to establish a Commission of Inquiry for the purposes hereinafter mentioned:

Now, therefore, I, Junius Richard Jayewardene, President, reposing great trust and confidence in your prudence, ability and fidelity, do, in pursuance of the provisions of section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (Chapter 393), by these present appoint you, the said -

Victor Tennekoon, Esquire,
Abdul Caffor Mohamed Ameer, Esquire,
Professor Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson,
Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam,
Nugegoda Gabadage Pablis Panditharatna, Esquire,
Mohamed Reyal Thassim, Esquire,
Dr. Joseph Anthony Leopold Cooray,
Kanapathipillai Navaretnarajah, Esquire,
Professor Kingsley Muthumuni de Silva, and
Mohamed Abdul Azeez, Esquire

to be my Commissioners to inquire into and report on the following matters:-

(i) the existing structure of Local Government with a view to ascertaining the manner in which economic development activity in a District could be planned and co-ordinated at the level of the District through, District Ministers and Development Councils;

(ii) the constitution and composition of such Councils including the method by which representatives to such Councils may be selected.

(iii) the powers, functions and duties that such Councils may exercise, discharge and perform;

(iv) the determination of the subjects that shall devolve on such Councils having regard to the proposals dated 22nd, June 1978, relating to District Ministers and such Councils;

(v) the appointment of officers and servants to such Councils;

(vi) the manner in which such Councils shall direct and supervise the activities of local authorities in respect of sanitation, health, education, road construction, co-operatives, village irrigation schemes and settlement under major irrigation schemes;

(vii) the financial structure and the methods of taxation in relation to such Councils;

(viii) the relationship between;

(a) the District Ministers and such Councils;

(b) the District Ministers and the Central Government;

(c) such Councils and the Central Government; and

(d) one such Council and another such Council.

And I do hereby appoint you the said Victor Tennekoon, Esquire, to be the Chairman of the said Commission.

And I do hereby authorise and empower you, the said Commissioners, to hold all such inquiries and make all other investigations into the aforesaid matters as may appear to you to be necessary, and require you to transmit to me within two months from the date hereof, a report thereon under your hands, setting out the findings of your inquiries and your recommendations:

And I do hereby direct that the inquiry relating to the aforesaid matters shall not be held in public:

And I do hereby require and direct all public officers and other persons to whom you may apply for assistance or information for the purposes of your inquiries and investigations to render all such assistance and furnish all such information as may be properly rendered and furnished in that behalf:

And I do hereby declare that the provisions of section 14 of the aforesaid Commissions of Inquiry Act shall apply to this Commission:

Given at Colombo, under the seal of the Republic of Sri Lanka, this Tenth day of August, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Nine.

By His Excellency's Command
W.M.P.B. Menikdiwela,
Secretary to the President.


Chapter 1 of Presidential Commission Report

We think it is important to place at the forefront of our Report a note on our understanding of our Terms of Reference. This may be somewhat unusual but has been rendered necessary because in response to our invitation through the Press to make representations relevant to our Terms of Reference, certain views have been expressed under the belief that our task is to inquire into the validity or otherwise of and to find a direct solution to the ethnic problems which have manifested themselves in a demand for a separate state.

It is appropriate to state at the outset that this exercise is not intended to explicitly deal with any such problems.

The scheme that we have envisaged would be applicable to all of the 24 districts in the Island irrespective of their ethnic composition and is not intended to provide a different political or administrative structure for any particular part of the country.

This exercise takes place within the parameters of our Terms of Reference and the Constitution which clearly excludes any scheme which conflicts with the unitary character of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

The proposals in our Report do not involve the sharing of, or alienation, or diminution of the sovereignty of the People with respect to legislative executive or judicial powers.

Our Terms of Reference requires us to examine the structure of Local Government in Sri Lanka, and to report on how best economic development activities of each district should be planned and co-ordinated through District Ministers and Development Councils.

Article 2 of the Constitution provides:

" 2. The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State."

This is one of the entrenched provisions of the Constitution in that any amendment thereof requires not only a two-thirds majority in Parliament, but also the approval of the People at a Referendum by Article 83 of the Constitution.

The Language provisions in Chapter 4 as well as Fundamental Rights in Chapter 3 of our Constitution are also specifically directed towards the protection of minorities. Provision is also contained in Article 126 for the right of seeking redress from the Supreme Court in the case of any infringement or imminent infringement of any Fundamental Right or language right recognized by Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of our Constitution.

A further safeguard is found in Article 156 which provides for the establishment of the office of a Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) charged with the duty of investigating and reporting upon complaints or allegations of the infringement of Fundamental Rights or other injustices by public officers and officers of public corporations and local authorities.

Thus our Constitution reflects the three basic principles or essentials of democracy - the sovereignty of the People, minority rights and political equality; and in giving equal rights to all persons the Constitution is directed towards the breaking down of all barriers of race, religion or caste, of education, of culture and of want of opportunity.

In any society, the effective enjoyment of these rights requires not only their formulation but also adequate measures for their observance by those in authority.

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